Digital Banking is 1% done

Banks that take deposits and make loans have been around for over 600 years, which pretty much makes it as mature an industry as you can get. Surely banking is more like 99% complete than 1% done?

A few years ago I did some work for Facebook. The stickers and screen prints that plastered various surfaces of the London office fascinated me. “Done is better than perfect”, “Is this a technology company?”, and other slogans in big block capitals with clever graphics were everywhere.

Often misunderstood, the slogans, including the most famous Facebook mantra: “Move fast and break things”, aren’t actually absolute directions – no one at Facebook wants to break their service – instead they are relative corrections. **

“Move fast and break things” in particular is aimed at helping the brilliant but perfectionist engineers move a little more towards a rapid execution / shipping approach. It’s change management by propaganda. More “Your country needs you!” than employee handbook.

One of the slogans that really caught my eye was “This journey 1% finished”. At the time Facebook was already a dominant global player, with over a billion monthly active users.

At that scale the 1% slogan was the perfect guard against complacency and settling on the idea that Facebook was a mature business. The phrase stops staff focussing on polishing a finished service, milking that cash cow, and riding the slow demise of the company, and makes them think about what user problems and journeys they can address with new technologies.

Mature companies in mature industries can be profitable and dominant for years if not decades, but they are reaping the rewards of early moves, and protecting that revenue stream, not looking for new opportunities and massive changes. Facebook knew that in this era of radical technological and societal change, companies that see themselves as mature and 99% finished are on the way out.

So when we talk to banking clients at 11:FS, we often use a slide that says “Digital banking is 1% finished”. Clients ask us what it would take to get it to 2%, but that’s not really what we’re trying to communicate.

”1% finished” is a mindset, it’s an acknowledgement that the current shift from commodity banking products to intelligent digital services will create a new playing field that is completely different from before.

In this new world commodity banking products will be buried beneath intelligent services, end-to-end journeys, guided marketplaces and financial platforms that will make everything about your finances clearer, easier to manage, and more transparent.

So either the big banks change their mindset and see that the new game has only just started, or they can enjoy a shrinking part in the market, while a new generation of providers build services on their commodity products and start new empires.


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